American Hustle (Movie) Review
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Not so much?
The subtle tension builds and bubbles along nicely as the film gathers pace and the laughs keep on coming. The characters stay interesting and the audience would hopefully be so invested in the story that they’ll stay rooted right up until the ending.
Director David O’Russell is on a roll at the moment following the respective successes of The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. Two fantastic yet very different films but both of which demonstrating O’Russell’s various directorial talents which include pure story-telling ability to perfectly timed injections of comedy. Above all, what always stands out (for me, anyway), is the way he conveys his characters and personally invests in them, providing each one with a platform to express every nuance, every flaw and every strength of their personality. He sees and treats them as more than just simple vehicles to deliver the lines or move the story on, they’re real people to him and I tend to forget that I’m watching actors on the screen when I watch an O’Russell film; I’m watching real people, too.
Of course, this could never be the case if O’Russell was unable to entice the best out of his actors and so it’s further testament to his directorial abilities that Christian Bale and Amy Adams (The Fighter), Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) have all given powerhouse and arguably career-best performances under O’Russell’s guidance.
Perhaps no surprise, then, that O’Russell reunites with this star-studded crew for American Hustle, an epic crime-caper set in the late 1970s in which Bale’s and Adams’ con-artist duo are forced to work for Cooper’s overzealous and over-excitable Federal Agent to help him bring down some high profile politicians, most notably a well-meaning Mayor played by Jeremy Renner, sporting one of the most ridiculous wigs ever seen on screen.
That being said, the wigs, haircuts, costumes and the soundtrack all helped give the film its intended period feel and it felt like the cast and crew were having fun with the various costume changes and styles. This sense of fun certainly puts American Hustle up there with one of O’Russell’s more comedic films and there are several laugh-out-loud moments, but this is not to say you should expect an outright comedy. This is more a blend of genres; from comedy to romance to crime; and covers various themes including love, marriage, friendship, fatherhood and betrayal; all the while exploring the premise of ‘doing the right thing’. It’s that investment in the characters themselves and the insight into their personalities and their lives which really make these ideas notable and hit home.
As for the actors themselves, it’s fair to say that their performances are at the very least on par with their previous O’Russell collaborations, if not better. I think this is certainly the case for Cooper and Adams anyway.
Cooper has been riding a parallel wave of success along with O’Russell over the last few years, proving what a fantastic character actor he is. This performance (a phenomenal supernova of nervous energy, stress and determination), in my opinion beats his efforts in Silver Lining Playbook and even in The Place Beyond The Pines in which he perhaps took everyone by surprise by his performance.
Adams is just a brilliant actress and always consistent but it was great to see her getting a lot more screen time here and playing a bigger role than in previous outings. As excellent as she was in The Fighter, for example, that stage belonged to Bale and Whalberg, but in American Hustle she gets her own spotlight and absolutely takes the opportunity to deliver.
Bale himself gives a perfectly balanced performance, not too understated and not too over the top as the film’s focal point of moral conflict whereas Lawrence is just outstanding as the comically unstable stay-at-home Mum. It’s almost a shame that she doesn’t get quite as much screen time as the others but then again her sporadic appearances provide the right amount of humour at just the right times.
It is probably a little longer than it needs to be and it does get off to somewhat of a slow start but I doubt too many people would complain because ultimately this is just great fun and utterly engrossing. The subtle tension builds and bubbles along nicely as the film gathers pace and the laughs keep on coming. The characters stay interesting and the audience would hopefully be so invested in the story that they’ll stay rooted right up until the ending, which could have been something of an anticlimax but thankfully concludes with the perfect blend of cheek and panache which the build-up warrants.
A great start to 2014.